To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: The Wipe Button

Hi, all,

      From the responses I've been getting, toilet tech seems to be the most interesting topic. Apparently, this sort of exploration is a good way to get to the bottom of a people. (OK, you can groan now.) Anyway, I do keep noticing more and more things about the toilets as I go into more and more Japanese homes (which have nicer facilities than commercial places). Last time, I mentioned the "butt" button, with a picture of a rear end being squirted from below and the word "butt" (in Japanese, of course: "oshiri"). No mystery, one would think: it's a bidet. However, the next button, with a very similar drawing, is labeled with the word "bidet" spelled out in katakana, the alphabet for foreign words. The aim, it turns out, is different. When you push one or the other button, you get squirted on the rear pretty much from the rear; when you push the other, a little arm extends from the back of the toilet seat to squirt you on the rear but more from below. Both squirters, and indeed all the high-tech gadgetry, are built into the toilet seat, not the appliance itself, so in either case the aim is necessarily different than with a European bidet (accounting in part from my tremendous surprise when I first used one of these in my Tokyo hotel room). On both sides of the actual seat are little arms (too low to be armrests, though) with rows of controls--the above-mentioned buttons, as well as settings for temperature and pressure, and little lights to tell you system status (what the lights actually mean is a guess). I keep wondering which button fires the photon torpedos, as these arms with controls look like the armrests of Captain Kirk's chair on the old Enterprise. The fancier ones have remote controls with LCD water temperature, pressure, and setting readouts mounted on the wall near the toilet paper. In my local discount electronics store, electronic toilet seats start at about $200 and the ones with digital remotes are in the $1000 neighborhood. A lot of people have the $1000 ones. I say again, these are TOILET SEATS.

Sitting in comfort,



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